WA growers considering variable rate technology

RAPIDLY changing technology in cropping has forced growers in Western Australia to assess new tactics, with many consulting a new case study booklet released by GRDC.
WA growers considering variable rate technology WA growers considering variable rate technology WA growers considering variable rate technology WA growers considering variable rate technology WA growers considering variable rate technology

Planfarm consultant Richard Quinlan (left) and Agrarian Management consultant Craig Topham researching precision agriculture tools.

Alex Paull

GRDC Western Regional Grower Services manager Roger States said the booklet Variable Rate Technology: Maximising returns for Western Australian grain producers showcased some of the tactics used by growers to increase productivity and profitability using variable rate technology.

“The publication is an initiative of the GRDC Regional Cropping Solutions Networks (RCSN) in the Geraldton and Esperance port zones and was produced by the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA),” he said.

“It features growers based mostly in these two zones and showcases their approaches to VRT, which involves developing a management strategy to target inputs rather than applying them as a blanket rate at paddock scale.

“Comments from four experienced consultants working in the field, as well as links to further information are included in the booklet.”

States said precision agriculture using VRT was seen by some WA growers as an obvious and ongoing gradual progression in refining their farm management programs.

“But others are either daunted by the new technology or cannot see the benefits outweighing the cost of purchasing new machinery or equipment,” he said.

“Other causes for reticence include paying for expertise and technical support, difficulty in understanding the technology, and the amount of time needed to learn and implement it.”

In addition to the case studies, States said other recent projects addressing VRT included research near Dowerin in 2015, supported by the Kwinana West RCSN group, that found using a range of soil mapping and information layers for VRT application in seasons typical of that year could potentially:

  • Save $14-$18.50 per hectare in input costs
  • Increase grain yields worth $18-$24/ha
  • Boosts profits by about $38/ha.

The Kwinana West project, coordinated by the Kondinin Group, highlighted if growers already had good quality historical yield and soil data, they might not need to incur the initial costs of doing EM and Gamma radiometrics surveys to reap the rewards of VRT adoption for crop zones.

Variable Rate Technology: Maximising returns for Western Australian grain producers is available on the GRDC website and RCSN website.